What a difference a year makes

Believe it or not, at this time a year ago, four-star defensive end Carl Lawson didn't have a single scholarship offer.

DE Carl Lawson Profile

Fast-forward some 365 days and he is now one of the most sought after players in the country.

"Obviously, there are some kids that you just overlook. Carl was one of those guys. When he first came to school here, we could tell he had the ability," said Milton High School head coach Howie DeCristofaro during a recent interview with CUTigers.

"We knew from his size, his speed, his quickness [and] his vertical -- all of that -- we knew he was going to be good, and he had that ability…we always thought he had it in him.

"It was just a matter of everybody being able to see it."

An appearance in the 2011 Georgia Junior Bowl made Lawson one of the hottest names on the national recruiting landscape.

UCLA was first to offer -- that came on Jan. 20. A day later, Auburn offered. By the time Lawson committed to Auburn in March, he had over 20 offers to his name.

Clemson first entered the mix in February.

"It's kind of an interesting story," DeCristofaro said. "They were interested in the running back we had who's going to Ole Miss, Peyton Barber. He was kind of interested in Clemson. I called Dan Brooks up…I said, ‘How come you guys aren't on Carl Lawson?' He didn't know who Carl Lawson was.

"Now, of course, this was February of last year. Not many people did then. I said, ‘You've got to get on him.' It was one of those things, they didn't even know about him."

After Gene Chizik was let go, the four-star defensive end began to look elsewhere, despite remaining committed to Auburn.

DeCristofaro said Auburn, Clemson, North Carolina and Tennessee are the finalists for Lawson's signature.

"They've pretty much narrowed it down to the four," DeCristofaro said. "What we did, we set up a criteria: What do you want your degree in? How long has the coach been there? How long is he going to be there? Do you have a chance to go got the NFL? Do you like the campus? Do you like the guys that are going to coach you?

"All those things that we set up as a criteria to decide, we did that together, his dad, Carl and I. They're just kind of doing it on their own. I've learned, over the year, to try to stay out of that part of it. If he asks questions, I tell him whatever I know."

With less than three weeks before signing day, the madness continues.

"Put it this way, when February 6 gets here, I'll be the happiest person on the planet," DeCristofaro said. "My phone just blows up all day long.

"All of a sudden, LSU is here today. I've hadn't seen them, never heard from them. Coach [Brick] Haley shows up and wants to see Carl. That's kind of the way it's been. People who've never been here before are all of a sudden coming."

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